field picture

Welsh politicians are calling for a food and farming summit to agree a strategy to build UK food resilience as the Ukraine crisis triggers food security worries, reports Farming UK.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew Davies, last week urged the Welsh government to convene a food summit of farmers, processors and retailers to inform UK food policy development in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He warned of knock-on consequences of the conflict on British farmers' abilities to grow food, since wheat, gas and fertiliser supplies from the region are under threat.

Responding to Davies' comments, First Minister Mark Drakeford said he would instruct the Rural Affairs Minister to discuss a summit with industry leaders following a UK inter-ministerial meeting where they will ask for food security to be on the agenda.

Meanwhile, the UN’s food agency warned on Friday (11 March) that the war in Ukraine could see world food prices rise again by more than 20 per cent on top of last month’s all-time high.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned a “global supply gap” caused by the Russian invasion “could push up international food and feed prices by 8-22 per cent above their already elevated levels”. Russia is the world’s biggest wheat exporter, while Ukraine is also a leading source of grains and oilseeds.

Last week emeritus professor of food policy at City University, London, Tim Lang, told theNew Statesmanhe was deeply concerned that the already frayed global food system “is severely ill-prepared to cope with the shock of war in Ukraine”, and that the “UK won’t avoid the hit”.

He said at the root of his fears was not just the rising cost of grain, but oil. “Food prices were already going up before the war, and now they will go up faster. Oil equals fertiliser equals food in the current system,” he said.

Ukraine’s status as the world’s breadbasket also means that the war’s disruption of planting this spring will have dire consequences, Lang added. Nations such as Egypt, which rely directly on its exports, will suffer particularly hard.

Since food prices are globally connected, the poor in Britain and Europe won’t avoid the pain, he said. The global shock of the war is only going to force more people into hard choices, Lang warned. 1.4 million people are living in fuel poverty in Britain, and Lang fears that food price hikes mean that, while the dilemma is often presented as either eating or heating, for many “neither eating nor heating is the politics that looms”.